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With one more set of games down in World Cup qualifying, there are now 15 teams who can say they are officially in the World Cup. Germany, England, Spain, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Poland and Egypt all took their last steps to reaching Russia, and there are several more spots that will be filled on Monday and Tuesday in what will be the last qualifying match for many of the teams around the world.
In Asia, a spot in the intercontinental playoff will be decided on Tuesday. Australia has the slight advantage having drawn 1-1 in the first leg in Syria last week. If the Aussies can hold on, they'll advance to take on a North American team in the home-and-home series for one of the last spots in the World Cup.
CONCACAF's spot in the intercontinental playoff will also be determined on Tuesday night. The United States is going to garner all of the attention at Trinidad, knowing that three points will be enough to sew up a spot in Russia. That said, the battle between Panama and Honduras for that last spot is going strong still, too. The Panamanians play host to Costa Rica, while Honduras hosts Mexico. The Hondurans need to pick up more points than Panama to finish fourth in the Hex, thus earning it the right of playing against the fifth-place Asian team for the right to get to the World Cup.
The most intrigue rests in CONMEBOL. With just one match left to play, there is still only one team that has locked up a spot in the World Cup. Brazil knows that it's dancing for sure, and Uruguay knows that any number of results will see it into the field of 32 as well. But Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay are all separated by just two points. Two of those five teams will get automatic spots into the World Cup, while the third-place finisher of the five will advance to take on New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff.
Argentina is the team that will have all eyes on it. Lionel Messi's side has never performed in these major spots, but this game at Ecuador will be the ultimate challenge. Three points will put Argentina in the top five of the group irrespective of what happens elsewhere. Chile, Columbia and Peru all hold their cards as well. If any of the three win, they'll be amongst the five best finishers and will either directly or effectively be in the World Cup.
Europe still has its share of drama to work out on Monday and Tuesday as well. France will win Group A with a victory over Belarus, a result that would send Sweden into the November playoffs.
Switzerland and Portugal are playing for a World Cup spot against each other on Tuesday, too. These two teams have been perfect aside from Switzerland's 2-0 win in Basel against the Portuguese a year ago. If Portugal makes amends at home and snares all three points, it would win the group. Anything less, and Switzerland is off to the World Cup.
Serbia, Wales and Ireland are all separated by just two points heading into the final match day of Group D. The Serbs are guaranteed at least a second-place finish, but they would need a draw against Georgia to ensure safety to the second round. Wales and Ireland both need a win to keep its World Cup dream alive against each other. The Irish are hosting this match. A draw would probably do both sides no good, as Group D has been a weak group, and only the winning team will certainly qualify for the World Cup. Should one of these teams win, that should be enough to get it into the playoff.
Greece is playing with some pressure on its shoulders, too. The Greeks have 16 points and are likely to finish second in Group H. That said, to get into the playoff, they'll have to cross their fingers that they've done enough with 13 points against non-last place finishers to advance.
Iceland is assured of at least a spot in the playoff, but it can win Group I with a victory over lowly Kosovo. That effectively leaves Croatia and Ukraine fighting for one potential spot to the playoff. Both will need a win on Monday night to have a shot of advancing. The Croats, who just sacked their manager on Saturday will have their shot against Ukraine on the road.
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